How Many Hours Do Registered Nurses Work?

I have written several articles about the schedules of a nurse. Such as, the article that was comparing some of the advantages and disadvantages of working 12-hour shifts. In this article, I’m going to look at another common question you might have which is “how many hours do registered nurses work?” 

How many hours a day do registered nurses work? Registered nurses typically work 8-, 10- or 12- hour shifts. Which shift the nurse works will depend on the nurse’s employer and what area of specialty the nurse works in. 

How many hours does a registered nurse work a week? A registered nurse is going to work 40 hours a week or 36 hours a week.

How many hours a year do registered nurses work? A registered nurse is going to work 2,080 hours a year or 1,872 hours a year. 

If a table is more helpful:

DESCRIPTION# OF HOURS
The number of hours nurses work in a day:8
10
12
16
The number of hours nurses work in a week:36
40
The number of hours nurses work in a year1,872
2,080

If you’re wanting to find out how many hours a nurse works quickly, we’ve got the answers for you above. Below we’re going to discuss why that’s the case and how we got our numbers.

*disclosure: this post may contain affiliate links. If you click and make a purchase, I may receive a commission. For more info, please see my disclaimer.  

How Many Hours Does a Nurse Work in a Day? 

The common shifts you’re going to see a nurse working will either be an 8-hour shift, 10-hour shift or a 12-hour shift. Which one a nurse works is really going to vary based on the nurse’s employer policy, the area of specialty the nurse works in, and the preference of the nurse. 

The Facility Policy:

Let’s start with facility protocol. Some facilities will have rules on how many hours a day a nurse will work. I’ve seen this happen to restrict nurses from working more than 8-hours in a day and I’ve seen it done again to restrict nurses from working more than 12-hours in a shift. 

The first was a facility that ran 8-hour shifts. Their concern was that if nurses were allowed to work 2 shifts (so a 16-hour nursing shift) if the nurse called in than they would call in for both shifts. This would be problematic because they would have to find a replacement for two shifts instead of just one. 

The other facility that didn’t want nurses working more than 12-hours in a shift was because of studies that site patient errors increase significantly when nurses are working more than 8.5 hours in a day (source). 

The Area the Nurse Works in

If a nurse works in an inpatient setting so for example:

  • Inpatient mental health nursing
  • ICU nursing
  • ER Nursing

Essentially anything inpatient than those areas have 24-hour nursing care. So more hours available to work in a day.

Pro Tip:
Keep in mind that a “12-hour shift” only refers to your scheduled shift. From experience more times than not, you’re not going to get out right on time. Between your relief nurse coming in late, finishing up your patient charting, and the risk of a patient decompensating at the tail end of the shift frequently a 12-hour shift becomes a 13 or 14-hour shift. 

If the nurse works in a more clinical setting like

  • Primary care nursing
  • School nursing
  • Nurse educator

Those areas typically don’t have nurses 24 hours a day. Therefore those specialties are limited by default to 8 hours a day. 

The Nurses Preference

Similar to how some nurses prefer night shift over day shift nursing, some nurses (like me) prefer to work longer days. There are some trade-offs to working 12-hour shifts over 8 like the ability to work fewer days a week. But more on that little later. 

How Many Hours a Week Does a Registered Nurse Work? 

Full time registered nurses will usually work 40 hours a week or 36 hours a week. The determining factor is often how many hours a day the nurse works. If they work 12-hour shifts they usually work 36 hours a week. If they work 10 or 8-hour shifts a day they often will work 40 hours a week. 

Pro Tip:
Keep in mind different facilities have different policies. Don’t be surprised if you work 12-hour shifts but still need to work 40 hours a week to be a full-time staff. 

The nice thing about working 12-hour shifts is that you get at least one, if not a couple of days off during the week. Which is really nice for doctor’s appointments or anything else you have to take care of during the weekday. 

How Many Hours Does a Registered Nurse Work in a Year?

A registered nurse that is only working 40 hours a week is going to work roughly about 2,080 hours a year. If the nurse only works 36 hours a week, then their yearly number of hours is going to drop to about 1,872 hours a year. 

How Many Days Does a Registered Nurse Work in a Work Week?

  • If a nurse works 8-hour shifts, they’re going to work 5 days a week.
  • If a nurse works 10-hour shifts, they’re going to work 4 days a week.
  • If a nurse works 12-hour shifts, they’re going to work 3 days a week. (Unless the facility mandates 40 hours a week or 80 hours in 2 weeks. Then they would work 6, 12-hour shift and 1 8-hour shift in a 2 week pay period).

The schedule mentioned above doesn’t take into account a nurse that frequently works overtime, or that’s not a full-time staff member.

How Many Hours Does a Part-Time Registered Nurse Work?

The hours a part-time nurse works are going to vary significantly. The reason for that is different facilities have different requirements. But you can expect the part-time nurse probably works less than 30 hours a week. 

If the nurse is a per-diem nurse, a PRN Nurse or an OPT (occasional part-time) nurse, they might work a lot less than that. 

What Hours of the Day Do Nurses Work?

Another way to ask this question is, “what shifts do nurses work?” 

Nurses that work in more clinic or office type settings can expect to work a Monday through Friday schedule, 7am or 8am to 4pm or 5pm. Also they probably don’t work weekends either. So an example of this would be:

  • School Nurse
  • Primary Care Nurse
  • Nurse Case Manager
  • Health Policy Nurse
  • Informatics nurse

Nurses that work in a more inpatient type setting can expect to work shifts like 7am-7pm / 7pm-7am or 7am-3pm / 3pm-11pm / 11pm-7am.

Surviving Long Nursing Shifts

Nurses work a lot of long and stressful hours. Because of that and to prevent nurse burnout it’s important nurses are practicing some of the tips below:

Final Thoughts

Nurses have an opportunity to work as much or as little hours as they want. One of the main things to keep in mind is to make sure there’s a good work-life balance. 

If you have any thoughts or comments, let us know in the comment section below.

If you would like to learn more about how much a registered nurse earns or the career outlook for a registered nurse, you can find all that information on the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics website.

You can also check out some of these related articles:

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